Monday, December 24, 2007

Bishop Bill's "Holy Friday"

Before 20 bishops, leaders and brothers from his religious community and a phalanx of revelers from the Pontifical North American College (among others), the tears and love flowed for Bishop Bill Callahan at the Milwaukee auxiliary's Friday ordination:
At 57, he was years and miles away from his childhood roots in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood, where he and his cousins played with the late Mayor Richard J. Daley's kids.

But the spiritual lessons he learned from priests there, and the practical lessons that ward politics taught about the virtues of community service, were not far behind....

But he also reflected on his man-of-the-people heritage as a Conventual Franciscan priest trying to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, one of his role models. In an interview this week, and in his statements in the cathedral, he spoke of wanting to be a servant to the servants by supporting the archdiocese's priests and people.

Callahan opened by telling the crowd, "Praised be Jesus Christ. . . . This prayer, one way or another, has been a part of my life almost every day of my life for as long as I can remember. And, yes, I learned it in kindergarten."

After telling how working with seminarians had deepened his faith, he said, "I've prayed about this moment. I have reflected for the past few months to find some way of standing before you peacefully, that I might share my feelings as I assume this ministry. I am not a great scholar nor a theological educator. I am not some whiz kid fund-raiser or inside trader. I'm not the outsider come to fix things. And I'm still trying to work out allegiances for NFL teams."
After laughter about his Packers-Bears reference erupted, he added, "Thank goodness I can, from time to time, enjoy a Lite beer from Miller."...

"The area where I have had some level of success is being a simple parish priest," Callahan said in an interview. "I love being a parish priest. And so, as much as I can possibly be a resource, a help . . . and, most importantly, a brother to priests, I see that as being . . . most significant to whatever duties the archbishop has for me."...

Lessons that Callahan took from the politics and priests of his childhood?

"It's all about people," he said. "It's all about service and being available, being aware of the fact that you have a public responsibility and an obligation to maintain yourself before the people of God, to act responsibly, to act according to the teachings of the church."
A veteran pastor and former vocation director for the community, Callahan is the first-ever "Black" Franciscan to become a bishop in the United States.

Later this week, emotional "homecoming" Masses are on tap at the two parishes he's led: Milwaukee's Basilica of St Josaphat on Christmas Day, and Sunday at his first pastorate, Holy Family in Peoria, Illinois, for its patronal feast.

PHOTO 1: Holy Family, Peoria
PHOTO 2: Kristyna Wentz-Graff/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel